With a vital shift happening in the way today’s consumers behave — and at a time when conversations about your brand can take place anywhere — brand reputation management has become an even bigger priority for companies.
With a positive brand reputation, you can more easily inspire consumer confidence, foster customer loyalty, and drive bottom-line growth. On the other hand, negative brand reputation can drive prospects away and lead to the loss of existing customers.
If your business performance hasn’t quite matched your own expectations, it may be useful to check up on your reputation and understand what consumers are saying about — as well as how they perceive — your brand.
However, this often presents a unique challenge for a lot of businesses, no matter the type or size. In order for us to understand how to craft the right brand reputation management strategy, let’s first examine what to aim for when managing your brand reputation.
Brand Reputation Management: Best Traits
What does a positive brand reputation look like? How do you know if your efforts are delivering the right kind of results?
Here are some common qualities found in companies with effective brand reputation management strategies:
Strong Thought Leadership and Expertise
Think of your favorite brands. More likely than not, they’re seen as thought leaders and experts in their space. They’re prominent, authoritative, and influential.
Brands with a great reputation are also featured consistently in news and business publications, social media channels, and trade outlets. They are also often more successful in securing speaking engagements, lead-generating buzz, and award opportunities.
High-quality Search and Online Presence
Search engines don’t prioritize businesses with a negative reputation. Most of the time, what you will see at the top of search engine results pages are results for high-quality businesses with a solid reputation.
The same goes for online news outlets, social media, online forums, blogs, and even mobile apps with business discovery features. Brand reputation management helps your business’ exposure. When searchers do find you, they see you as a trusted resource that provides valuable information (and a compelling proposition).
Healthy Social Media Following
Brand reputation management can also drive a business’ social media presence and engagement levels.
Think of it this way: would you, as an individual social media user, take the time to like, follow, retweet, or engage with a brand with a bad rep? Probably not.
Instead, we like, love, and are delighted by brands that are well thought of and respected.
Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Linkedin, brands with an excellent reputation usually have rapidly growing communities of social media fans and followers. They’re engaging, trustworthy, and accessible. And they’re more likely to be able to make authentic connections with existing and potential customers than brands with a negative reputation.
Read more about the relationship between social media and reputation management.
Great Reviews and Ratings
Brands with a great reputation also typically have an attractive presence on online review websites.
No business has perfect reviews and ratings — and perfection is less than ideal anyway. But if you’re managing the reputation of your brand the right way, you should be able to consistently garner positive reviews and ratings on sites like Yelp, Facebook, Google, and TripAdvisor, among others.
You’re at the top of search results and business directories because the reviews pushed you up there, and your happiest customers aren’t reluctant to share their experience and post their testimonials online.
Brands with a rock-solid reputation are also usually highly responsive to these reviews, and to customer feedback in general. They’re responsive even to negative feedback, because they realize that the responses can make a big impact on reputation. In fact, according to research, 78 percent of consumers say that seeing a brand respond to reviews makes them believe that the brand cares more about them.
Brand Reputation Management: Best Practices
Now that you know of the qualities of an effective reputation management strategy it’s time to get your own plan in action. To give you a leg up on the competition, we have a few starting tips to get your brand reputation management plan up and running in the right direction.
Manage and Respond to Reviews
Responding to reviews is a key component of any brand reputation management strategy. Why? Because perceptions immediately improve when customers hear back from you after they have shared a review or their feedback.
As mentioned earlier, 78 percent of consumers believe that a brand cares more about them when its management responds to their reviews.
This also explains why the most successful and highly rated brands — on social media and online review sites — are typically the ones that are most responsive to customers. They’re also usually the ones that can more easily build goodwill, inspire customer loyalty, and extend customer lifetime value.
Grow your Content Marketing Efforts
Your brand reputation is shaped largely by how consumers perceive you. But you have to resist the notion that there is nothing you can do about it. There is!
A valuable part of any brand reputation management strategy, content marketing helps you stimulate consumer interest in your brand. This means creating, publishing, and sharing different types of content — blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, infographics, photos and videos, social media posts, etc. — that are designed to educate and engage your audience, while also positioning your brand as a thought leader and expert.
Keep in mind, though, that your content shouldn’t be overly promotional or “sales-y.” Instead, aim to provide solutions to common problems. Give your audience something of value, without trying to wring money out of them.
If you represent a bank or financial institution, your content marketing efforts can revolve around how to invest wisely, or how to practice online banking safety. If you’re a healthcare provider, you can talk about healthy living, fitness and diet options, and healthcare news and trends.
Focus on Customer Experience
Before you can influence consumer perceptions and behavior, make an effort to first understand them. What is their experience like, viewed entirely from their perspective?
In the modern business environment, sales-oriented brands are taking a backseat to customer experience leaders and innovators. Focusing on the customer experience — from initial contact, through the process of engagement, to post-transactional interactions and long-term relationships — strengthens the entire foundation of your brand. On the other hand, if you don’t deliver a great customer experience, people will look elsewhere for a competitor that does.
Add Reviews to your Website
Reviews serve as a kind of social proof to inspire confidence and trust in your brand. After all, they reflect the voice of the customer, rather than that of brand marketers. By default, consumers are prone to trust the former more.
Another great reason to add reviews to your website? They can help you build high-quality search presence: one of the key characteristics of a positive brand reputation.
A website that integrates review content also enables unique SEO (search engine optimization) benefits. According to AdWeek, 800 words of substantive review text can make up as much as 70 percent of fresh content for a website page, which search engines will reward with higher search results.
Reviews can also influence your brand’s search ranking by improving on-site content density, increasing triggers for search engine crawlers, and improving ranking for long-tail searches and branded searches.
Looking for a way to dynamically display reviews on your website? Try using review widgets.
Nurture Loyal Customers and Brand Advocates
To positively impact your brand reputation, you’ll need to develop relationships with your loyal customers and brand advocates. They play a crucial role in vouching for you, building hype for your brand, and driving their peers to your business.
Don’t hesitate to nurture and engage with existing customers. Use social listening tools to track where their conversations are taking place. Reach out to them through email campaigns or surveys and ask for their feedback.
If you know that you’re delivering experiences that they love, then encourage them to speak positively about your brand. Empower them to showcase your business and recommend you to others. Remember: loyal customers and advocates can transform your brand reputation. Be proactive in building your relationship with them.